Apr. 8—Reservoir coach Carole Ferrante said she could see the nerves on the faces of several of her upperclassmen in the early stages of both sets against visiting Glenelg in the quarterfinals of the county championship tournament Wednesday.
When it came down to making plays in crunch time, however, experience in big situations went a long way for the Gators.
Creating separation down the stretch after trailing early on in both games, Reservoir (8-0) earned a 2-0 sweep of Glenelg (2-3) by scores of 25-22 and 25-18 to advance into a semifinal matchup next week against Marriotts Ridge.
"For some of my seniors, I could tell that they were thinking about how this could be it for them and there was a lot of emotion that went along with that," Ferrante said. "They have been waiting for this season for so long and have wanted it so bad, sometimes that can work against you. I think Glenelg came out playing very well and we were overthinking things, which put us into some tough spots.
"But the fact that they were able to collectively refocus and lean on one another says so much. Watching that game, it wasn't one person that did it. It was all of them doing their part."
The Gators' senior group, including Kayla Brown (5 kills, 4 blocks), Navleen Kaur (3 kills, 4 digs), Breyonna Young (6 digs) and Shelby Reed (3 blocks), certainly delivered in the big moments. But just as important were the contributions of the younger core on the team, including Jessica Rothermel (9 assists), Kelsey Holmes (3 kills, 7 assists) and Mayah Tucker (5 kills).
Holmes said when things got tough, particularly when Reservoir was trailing 16-12 in game one and 5-0 early in game two, having veteran leadership went a long way.
"Having players who have been in these situations, where they know how to pull us out of a rut when we may not be playing our best, that really makes a huge difference," Holmes said. "We have players who aren't afraid to speak up and take charge when things are close."
Glenelg, which was playing its first match in three weeks because of a shutdown due to coronavirus protocols, certainly outperformed its seeding. The Gladiators moved some players around, including switching senior libero Alyssa Kelly (2 kills, 7 digs, 4 aces) to outside hitter, and ended up playing the undefeated second-seeded Gators tough from start to finish.
"We came in knowing all the pressure was on them. No one picked us to win this match or probably keep it that close, so I was very pleased with their effort," Glenelg coach Jason Monjes said. "I mean, that's the first time we've used that lineup this season. And yet we really had a shot. There were just a couple more plays that they made at the end when it mattered most."
Monjes said that Reservoir's height at the net was a big difference in crunch time. The Gators ended up with eight blocks as a team and got several in big moments.
"The group of Shelby, Kayla and Anjola [Omolewa] ... they did a phenomenal job of not only having really good timing with the block, but also being able to respond if it did come back on our side," Ferrante said. "I don't think we came in thinking about having a height advantage, but we did end up taking advantage of it."
The first set was back-and-forth most of the way, featuring eight ties and neither team leading by more than five points. Glenelg's largest advantage was at 16-12 before Reservoir answered with an extended run to tie the match and eventually take the lead. Reservoir later went ahead 24-19 before staving off a final Glenelg push for the opening-set win.
The second set was all Glenelg early, with the Gladiators grabbing a 5-0 advantage on the serve of Kelly. Reservoir slowly chipped away, however, and ended up taking its first lead of the set at 11-10. The score was tied 17-17 before the Gators finally created the separation it needed to emerge victorious.
Looking ahead to the matchup next Wednesday against the Mustangs, a team that played Reservoir to its closest game of the season in a 2-1 decision last week, Holmes believes that the Gators will be ready.
"Hopefully we learn from this and there is a switch that comes on next week where we realize that this is really for the prize and we can bring our best game," Holmes said. "We are going for the gold now and we know what we have to do."
No. 2 Reservoir def. No. 7 Glenelg — 2-0 1/8 25-22, 25-18 3/8
Reservoir stats: Kayla Browne (5 kills, 4 blocks, 4 aces, 3 digs), Navleen Kaur (3 kills, 4 digs, 2 aces), Breyonna Young (6 digs), Shelby Reed (3 blocks), Jesscia Rothermel (9 assists, 4 digs), Kelsey Holmes (3 kills, 7 assists, 5 digs), Mayah Tucker (5 kills).
Glenelg stats: Alyssa Kelly (2 kills, 7 digs, 4 aces), Lindsay Kelley (12 assists), Libby Laport (5 kills, 2 digs), Mackenzie Calhoun (5 kills, 6 digs, ace)
Marriotts Ridge 49, Glenelg 46, Oakland Mills 25, Atholton 18
In the quad match at Willow Springs, Caleb Taylor set the pace with an even-par round of 27 points, while the Marriotts Ridge duo of Daniel Tuma (two-over, 25 points) and Justin Allen (24) were right behind him.
MR: Daniel Tuma 25, Justin Allen 24.
G: Caleb Taylor 27, Roggen King 19.
OM: Mason Cowell 15, Alex Tamai 10.
A: Ivan Cho 13, West Peterson 5.
Glenelg 43, Marriotts Ridge 29, Oakland Mills 6
Freshman Megan Kirkpatrick continued her standout first high school season by posting a one-over-par round of 26 points to lead all female golfers at Willow Springs on Wednesday.
G: Megan Kirkpatrick 26, Ally Abruscato 17.
MR: Alana Alexander-Giles 20, Charlene Pak 9.
OM: Kylee Hoffman 6.
Centennial 8, Wilde Lake 0